The summer is full of celebrations involving fireworks especially of the 4th of July. Dogs and cats react to fireworks. Some aren’t upset by the explosions, and others can get hurt by panicking and jumping through closed windows or bolting through doors to get away from the terrifying noise and lights.
The 4th of July Day is the busiest day of the year in shelters, and that many pets get lost, injured. You should know which clinics or emergency hospitals will be open during fireworks season, in case you need one, as this will help you avoid time delays and stress.
Signs of anxiety
The can include pacing, trembling, panting, drooling, attention-seeking, vocalizing, pawing, nuzzling, and climbing on people, hiding, and bolting. Escape attempts tend to involve hiding behind furniture, and staying in a basement or bathroom. Because the source of the noise is confusing, inside dogs may want to escape to the outside and outside dogs may be frantic to get inside.
Nervous pets tend to drink more water, so keep more available than usual. Remember these summer events usually mean hotter weather so extra water is already a good idea. Bring outside pets inside so they can’t bolt. Keep your cats securely inside and if your dog needs a potty break during the fireworks, take him outside on a leash. Make sure all your pets are wearing an ID tag or a collar that contains your phone number. Tags and collars can be lost so a microchip is even more useful in helping you find your lost pet.
What can you do to keep your frightened pet safe and calm? For many frightened pets, just staying in a crate as long as they are used to one or in a safe room with a closed door is all that’s needed.
Synthetic pheromone sprays for cats and dogs are available at pet stores. These sprays imitate the properties of the natural pheromones of the lactating female that gives kittens or puppies a sense of well-being.
Some pets respond to some commercially available pressure wraps . The pressure on the body may have a calming effect.
In behavior modification controlling the intensity of the fireworks is necessary and often the most challenging part. While it often isn’t possible to expose a fearful dog to only little fireworks, controlling other factors can help. Distance from the fireworks can be less intimidating, as would be keeping the dog indoors. Music may disguise the bursts of noise; consider loud music with a regular beat.
Classical counter conditioning can create a positive association with fireworks if the anxiety isn’t extreme. Give high-value food rewards (canned food or peanut butter), offer your pet his favorite toys or food puzzle toys, or have your pet practice his tricks with you. The goal is for him to learn that fireworks result in highly pleasant rewards. You can teach a desirable coping response. The appropriate response for a dog facing something frightening is to retreat to a safe place until the frightening thing ends. Providing a safe retreat, such as a crate or a closet, will give security and confidence, although selecting the location is up to the pet. Blankets to muffle the sound and a pheromone diffuser will provide natural motivation for the dog to seek this location. Being able to cope when the world becomes overwhelming is a life skill essential for both people and dogs! Hiding is not a sign of a problem, if the pet quickly returns to a normal behavior when the fireworks are over.
It’s easier to prevent a fearful reaction than it is to reverse one. If your pet is nervous around loud, unexpected noises, a short-term sedative before the fireworks start may be just the ticket. Talk to your veterinarian ahead of time, so you can have something on hand to give your pet before the fireworks start. Some severely anxious pets may benefit from drugs that increase the level of serotonin. However, these drugs can take several weeks, if not more, to build up to an effective level, so this is not a quick fix. We can help you decide which products may work the best for your pet.
You have many choices of how to help your pet cope with fireworks stress. Talk to us about what is best for your pet. Hopefully, everyone in the family will then be able enjoy the holiday!